Our Returning War Heroes

April 16, 2015

It has been my experience that most returning soldiers are not very eager to share their war experiences. Family and close friends rarely hear what their loved ones experienced during the battles they might have been in. Some talk at least a little, most it seems keep it all to themselves.

There is no doubt that war is horrible. Soldiers and other witnesses see and experience things which are absolutely contrary to the nature of mankind. In John 5:16 we read, “God is Love and whoever remains in love, remains in God, and God in him”

We all are created in the image of God. It is not in the nature of mankind and not in the nature of God to kill, wound or to hurt someone. In Genesis1:27 we read. “God created man in His image.” People are made in the image of God and are made for love, since God is love. Since God is love, brutality does not have a natural place in the being of mankind. Soldiers are taught to kill and to do all that is necessary to protect themselves and their country from their enemy. The church urges nations to avoid war. However in some circumstance governments have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defence.

Having said that, the government also has an obligation to help the wounded, and the sick, and suffering which results from war. All Christians have the same obligation.

I have been told that the Ukrainian government at the beginning of the trouble in the east of Ukraine sent its’ officials and medical specialists to the United States to learn about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Today, spirituality and psychological wellbeing are of major importance in the life of a Ukrainian soldier. There are very many chaplains in the Ukrainian armed forces.

It was not until the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that the Americans and the rest of the world began to recognize the major problems returning soldiers had, for example alcohol and drug addiction, depression, family violence, separations, hospitalization and very sadly even suicide are signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today governments actually work very hard to help returning service men.

Somehow we all expect our soldier heroes to be brave and never to flinch in the face of any horror. It is however quite human to have fear in our hearts. In the old days “cowards” were shot for their lack of bravery. The concept was that big boys don’t cry! But they do! Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has existed for ever, so long as man has committed atrocities to his fellow human beings

We say “at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” I pray that we do. I pray that we are able to help heal them by reminding them that they are created in God’s image and by helping them realize that God loves them and we do as well. I pray that they can heal their own broken relationships by learning to love themselves because they are indeed made in God’s image.

+ Most Rev. Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R.
Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania

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